'The Anvil' is a novel about a teenaged girl named Clare who is put into a program of psychological therapy in Toronto during the 1970s, and it relates the process by which her character is violently forged. The novel is in three sections.
The first section is a flashback of Clare's decline, sandwiched between scenes of the waiting room in the psychiatric institution. Chapters on her home life alternate with chapters on the private school where she slowly falls apart. Although Clare blames the school, it is apparent that the real cause of disturbance is her hypocritical family.
In the second section, when Clare enters the psychiatric institution the place seems impossibly benign. But disillusionment slowly develops as she senses a lack of respect for the patients. After she is initiated into womanhood by Kegan, the resident heartbreaker, she responds with passion to a single moment of affection from an otherwise uncommunicative patient named Ray.
In the third section Kegan has succeeded in turning Ray against Clare when, in a flash forward, she reveals that for years she has been sexually abused by her father. The psychiatric institution denies the truth of her accusation, claiming that it is the result of an unbalanced mental state. Nevertheless, Clare prevails despite the long term effects of abuse. Then her ill fated love affair and its inevitable outcome as her time at the institution draws to a close and her grief is misunderstood.
This report prepared by Bill Stephen